A Great Cold Email Always Beats an Awful Warm Email

An email introduction made by someone who doesn’t know you (or doesn’t like you) isn’t going to do you any favors

Photo: Urupong/Getty Images

The “always find a warm intro to a VC” axiom is often misunderstood.

Its purpose is to remind people of the value of a mutual connection who can vouch for an entrepreneur’s abilities, experience, and perseverance. This value is real, but people further misinterpret the axiom to mean that they should find someone who happens to have the VC’s contact info and get them to forward an email without much context or relevance. At least one-third — and maybe as much as one-half— of the “warm introductions” I receive fall into this category.

What happens in this case? Usually, something like the following:

Me: Hey thanks for the forward. Are you vouching for this person or just passing along? Are you investing as an angel, or would you if you could?

The “warm” intro: Well, I met them at an event somewhere but don’t really know them… I worked with them but they’re actually not that good… [or some variation of these]


From my standpoint, it’s a negative signal for an entrepreneur to take this route. It suggests a lack of self-awareness or strategic thinking — that they prized someone having my email address (which is publicly available anyway) versus knowing what that person would actually say about them. It’s like supplying a bad reference to a potential employer.

What would I prefer instead? Send me a great cold email. One that tells me why you’re reaching out, directs my attention to something, and suggests what you’d like as a next step. Provide proof, rather than claims (show me code, a blog post, a deck). And don’t start off by apologizing for sending me a cold email.

I’ve funded companies off of cold emails. I’ve taken coffees off of cold emails. I’ve sent (hopefully) thoughtful replies to cold emails. There’s nothing wrong with a solid cold email.

You’ll find me @homebrew , Seed Stage Venture Fund w @satyap . Previously made products at YouTube, Google & SecondLife. Married to @cbarlerin .

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